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Sours v. Precythe

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 5, 2019

WILLIAM SCOTT SOURS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ANNE L. PRECYTHE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff William Scott Sours, an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined to grant the motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.86. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will direct plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $14.33, and an average monthly balance of $7.22. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.86, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An action is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that “if the essence of an allegation is discernible, ” the court should “construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints must allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Missouri Secretary of State, the Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MODOC”), and four MODOC employees.[1] Plaintiff sues the defendants in their official and individual capacities. He alleges as follows.

         Plaintiff is in a class of prisoners who owe Intervention Fees to the Missouri Division of Probation and Parole. “The defendants” have rules and policies via which they collect those fees from the prisoners' trust accounts. Plaintiff alleges that “the plaintiffs” possess a protected property interest in their accounts, and that “the defendants” have violated their due process rights by not allowing them to contest erroneous assessments of such fees. Plaintiff also states the prison grievance process is inadequate, and that indigent inmates are not given free items and services such as hygiene supplies, writing supplies, and postage. Plaintiff states that the Missouri Secretary of State is liable because he is responsible for validating the rules promulgated by the defendants. He states that the MODOC defendants are liable because they have denied inmates a meaningful post-deprivation remedy. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and monetary relief.

         Discussion

         This action is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff obviously intends to bring this action on behalf of himself and other ERDCC inmates. This is impermissible. While federal law authorizes plaintiff to plead and conduct his own case personally, see 28 U.S.C. ยง 1654, he lacks standing to bring claims on behalf of others. Further, plaintiff does not allege, nor is it apparent, that he is a licensed attorney. Only a licensed ...


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